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  • Written by Catherine Gildiner
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  • Written by Catherine Gildiner
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Written by Catherine GildinerAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Catherine Gildiner

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On Sale: May 21, 2010
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-307-36924-6
Published by : Vintage Canada Knopf Canadian Publishing
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

During her decade in prison, Kate Fitzgerald has learned a few things. The best way to survive is to absorb yourself in your own world. Never make eye contact with your fellow inmates. And the last person you can trust is your prison psychiatrist – not only is he likely to be lazy and incompetent (really, why else wouldn’t he be getting rich off of well-heeled clients instead?) but if you complain about him you’re going to be labelled as a “permanent malcontent” and denied parole. So when Dr. Gardonne offers Kate a temporary absence and a job working for him, she only takes it because she knows that turning him down could be worse for her in the long run – counted in prison years, of course. But the real challenge is figuring out why he would choose her.

On the surface, it’s pretty clear. Kate has spent her incarceration immersing herself in the writings of Sigmund Freud, and has become a recognized expert on his work. Dr. Gardonne represents the members of a psychoanalytic organization that is being attacked at its core: Anders Konzak, the hand-picked director of the Freud academy, has been boasting to the media that his new research on Freud will bring the entire profession of psychoanalysis to its knees. He’s also been receiving death threats. And Kate, as an outsider, is the only one Konzak will talk to. Though she doesn’t trust Gardonne, Kate accepts his offer, and she races to uncover Konzak’s secrets before he publishes his work.

Never one to work well with others, Kate is less than thrilled to find out Gardonne has hired a private detective to be her partner. Jackie Lawton is a hardened ex-con who has spent most of his life in prison and only recently turned things around by starting his own business. From the moment the two meet, Kate sees that it won’t be easy working with a man who isn’t really interested in the intellectual battle at hand and who keeps her prison time at the forefront of every conversation. And can he really be trusted? When key players – who were all last seen with Kate – begin to turn up dead, there’s the very real possibility she’s being set up by Gardonne. After all, who would believe the word of a convict serving time for murdering her husband? All she can hope is that following the threads of Konzak’s research to his sources will keep her one step ahead of Gardonne and lead her to the real killer.

With Seduction, Catherine Gildiner gives us not only a gripping detective story full of shifting characters and fast-paced twists but a remarkable intellectual thriller. Through the letters and papers of Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin and the venerable Wedgwood family, Gildiner brings the personalities and ideological conflicts of the past to life in the present. Along the way we meet an assortment of characters, from social misfits to the demure but resolute Anna Freud, who is still living in the London house where she brought her ailing father for the last year of his life, and where she actively guards his legacy. The story takes us from Toronto to Vienna, London, the Isle of Wight, New York and back again to Toronto – each locale seen through the eyes of Kate, who relishes in the beauty of a world that has been denied to her for a decade.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

PART 1: PEN PALS

Chapter 1: CELLULAR ACTIVITY

Look into the depths of your own soul and learn first to know yourself, then you will understand why this illness was bound to come upon you and perhaps you will thenceforth avoid falling ill.
—Freud, One of the Difficulties of Psychoanalysis


It's really embarrassing to admit, but I forget why I killed my husband.

The vast majority of people do not kill their spouses. I’ve faced that I’m in an extreme minority. Since I’m locked in here anyway, I decided to try to figure out what I missed that everyone else seems to understand. In a former life I studied Darwin and examined how drives become instincts. It was great for watching birds make their nests and fly south, but it didn’t give me any clues as to why I killed my husband, or help me figure out how to conduct myself when, and if, I ever get out of this cinder-block cell. I tried reading religion, but it didn’t grab me. Philosophy was interesting, but it only made me wonder if I was here at all.

However in 1974, about eight years ago — I’ve been in this cooler surrounded by frozen tundra for nine years now — I ran across Freud. I started with volume one of his collected works, because I’m that kind of person, and read all twenty-three. (I’m that kind of person too.) Freud’s theory is a turnkey operation. You only have to buy into the unconscious and the rest falls into place. It’s like buying the model suite: you may have quibbles with the furnishings, but you have somewhere decent to live.

My greatest interest was early Freud, in all the discoveries he made before he was famous. In his letters he would explain that he’d seen patients all day and was then alone in his small study working through the night. Even when he went to sleep, he had dreams of planing wood — still honing the theory. Freud called this first decade of his most original discoveries, before he had any followers except for one loopy buddy named Wilhelm Fliess, his time of “splendid isolation.”

I was also alone, reading Freud day and night in my six-by-nine-foot cell. Maybe it was the similarity of our splendidly isolated circumstances, but I felt Freud was writing to me. I even answered his letters in a notebook that I kept hidden in my cell. When I got on a real roll in the middle of the night after ten straight hours, I felt we were co-authors.

They say prison is hell and I suppose it is in most conventional ways, though I look at it as a monastic opportunity where all distraction is mercifully wiped away. Not many people share a cell for nearly a decade with one of the greatest geniuses of all time. Of course, I never said as much to my prison psychiatrist — he would think it was delusional — but I feel doing time with Freud kept me sane.



Fifty percent of female prisoners have a grade nine or lower education; forty percent are illiterate; the majority were unemployed at the time of their crime. Even though Native people make up two percent of the population nationally, they are thirty-eight percent of the Canadian prison population. Two-thirds of female prisoners are single mothers. Eighty percent have histories of sexual or physical abuse. Less than one percent of women in prison are there for violent crimes. On the rare occasions when their crimes are violent, the aggression is almost always toward a spouse who has repeatedly abused them first.

Not one of these statistics applies to me. And I’ve always been a fan of stats, since numbers pretty well paint the picture.

The only thing I’ve had in common with my fellow prisoners, as my psychiatrist likes to remind me, is that we’ve all committed crimes. Somehow I don’t find that an icebreaker. Now Freud, on the other hand, was a biologist turned psychologist, like me. In fact he described himself as “Not a man of science, not an observer, not an experimenter, not a thinker . . . I am by temperament nothing but a conquistador — an adventurer, if you want it translated — with all the curiosity, daring, and tenacity characteristic of a man of this sort.” These are traits I also have in spades. In terms of curiosity I’ve studied everything I could get my hands on since I was a kid. If you want to talk about daring, then let me remind you that I killed my husband. If these are the qualities that make a conquistador, then Freud was a great one and I, albeit pathological, am one as well. No wonder I bonded to him.

I was determined to read everything to find out why I was so unusual. Depending on what psychological assessment you read on me, you can substitute the word psychopathic or paranoid for unusual. I never got too riled up over those labels because, let’s face it, psychiatrists get paid to call you something.

Before prison, I liked science with all the bells and whistles — hypothesis testing, finding physical or numerical results, and measuring the difference. It’s called hard science when you have something hard or physical to measure. There’s a lot of comfort in measuring something you can see. Although Freud was a medical doctor, his greatest love was physiology and the biological research it entailed. When, at the age of forty, he didn’t get the academic research appointment he wanted, he qualified as a neurologist and set up a private practice. Back in the days before psychiatry was an official discipline, the psychotics wound up in insane asylums run by doctors who were called Alienists. As far as I can tell, they were fairly alienated from the patients. Their job was to make sure the doors were locked and the lunatics had straw in their cells. The neurotics of the nineteenth century had nowhere to go, and out of desperation wound up dragging their anxiety, hysteria and nervous tics into neurologists’ offices. Freud, one of the few neurologists who agreed to investigate hysteria, spent hour after hour seeing patients, mostly women, who had all kinds of symptoms with no apparent physical basis. Wanting to follow the rigours of the scientific tradition, Freud was in a quandary because he needed to study the mind in order to help his patients, but the hard sciences didn’t have any methodology for doing so. You can’t measure and quantify mental phenomena. Wanting to stick with the sciences, he had to invent his own science or method, which became known as psychoanalysis.


From the Hardcover edition.
Catherine Gildiner|Author Q&A

About Catherine Gildiner

Catherine Gildiner - Seduction

Photo © MK Lynde

In 1999 Catherine Gildiner published her first book, a humorous memoir of her childhood called Too Close to the Falls. The story is told through the eyes of young Cathy McClure (Gildiner) who, at the age of four, is put to work assisting the delivery man who works for her father’s pharmacy, in order to curb what the local pediatrician considers her hyperactivity. Gildiner was prompted to write the book after a friend kept bugging her to write down all the crazy stories she had from her childhood — even though Gildiner thought her upbringing quite ordinary. After writing the first chapter she mailed it away to a publisher, not expecting much to come of her efforts, but it wasn’t long before she received an almost unbelievable reply: an advance cheque in the mail, with a Post-it Note saying "finish it." The memoir was published in Canada, the United States, England and Australia to wide acclaim, received award nominations and spent more than 70 weeks on Canadian bestseller lists. "I was surprised and amazed that people would be interested in what I call a happy, normal childhood,” Gildiner has commented, “but I’ve now come to see it’s not as normal as I thought."

By then Gildiner had already been working for a few years on the novel that would become Seduction. In fact, Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin had been inhabiting her mind as characters for more than twenty-five years, ever since she worked on her Ph.D. thesis, which looked at Darwin’s influence on the father of psychoanalysis. As Gildiner explains in her note at the start of Seduction, her extensive study of the two men and their theories brought some "inconsistencies" to the surface — "not in the theories, but in the motivations behind them." From there, Gildiner began to build on and revise their personalities and histories until the two men existed for her as larger-than-life characters, destined — two decades later — for the page.

Gildiner was born in 1948 in Lewiston, New York, and came to Canada in 1970. After completing an M.A. and a Ph.D. in psychology, she established her private practice, and has worked as a clinical psychologist for more than twenty-five years. She also writes journalistic pieces for various newspapers and a monthly column for Chatelaine. Gildiner lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is on a masters rowing team that rows competitively worldwide. She is currently working on a sequel to Too Close to the Falls that will cover her life between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five.

Author Q&A

Can you tell us how you became a writer?
I was a psychologist in private practice for twenty-five years. For fun, I once wrote an unsolicited column for Facts and Arguments in The Globe and Mail and just faxed it in one day. To my surprise it was published. An editor at Chatelaine magazine happened to read the column and invited me to be their psychological advice columnist. That was the birth of my journalism career.

My creative writing career was equally serendipitous. I’m a bit of an Irish storyteller, so once, at a party, I told a childhood tale about how I’d worked full time from the age of four delivering drugs with a black delivery car driver, and how we’d been trapped in the snow overnight. Someone at the party told me to write the story and send it to a publisher. So I quickly wrote up the tale and then mailed it in on a Friday. On the following Monday I received an advance cheque in the mail with a yellow Post-it attached that said "finish it." Not wanting to give back the cheque, I finished the book. That is how my childhood memoir, Too Close to the Falls, was hatched. It was on the bestsellers list for seventy-two weeks, so that helped me to decide I must be a writer.

What inspired you to write this particular book? Is there a story about the writing of this novel that begs to be told?
Twenty-five years ago I wrote a Ph.D. thesis titled Darwin’s Influence on Freud. Over the many years I spent in the library reading their letters and works, I got to know Darwin and Freud fairly well. I noticed personal quirks and inconsistencies that I believed were subtly reflected in their theories. My mind was full of the sort of details you can put in a novel but never in a Ph.D. thesis.

For example, Freud proposed the seduction theory in 1895. Some of Freud’s hysterical patients reported having had incestuous relations with their fathers in childhood. Freud then postulated that these incestuous (what he called “seduction”) relationships resulted in the adult onset of hysteria. Then suddenly — two years later, in 1897 — Freud retracted the seduction theory saying he had made a mistake. He said he finally figured out that it was the patient’s fantasy that she had been seduced by her father. Freud said he mistook the patient’s fantasy, based on longing for the father, for a reality.

No scholar has ever really known why Freud changed his mind, and critics have raved on for years about it, but the truth is no one really knows. My novel, Seduction, is about what I imagine happened in that two year time period to make Freud change his mind.

What is it that you’re exploring in this book?
I wrote Seduction on two levels. On level one it is a simple thriller. Who threatens the Freudian archivist and why?

The second level is an exploration of Freud’s early work and Darwin’s later work. Freud was a biologist until he was over forty and then he turned to psychology. Darwin, on the other hand, was a biologist until his later years and then he became a psychologist. I wanted to explore in what way these two men are mysteriously related. Along the way I explore various secrets that both of them could be covering up.

I have always been interested in the history of science and the interaction between theory, personality and the social context of the theorist. The idea of objective knowledge has always seemed to me to be an oxymoron.

I am hoping that Seduction will give its readers some new information about Darwin and Freud, while simultaneously showing how complicated it is to have ideas accepted. Most importantly, I want people to have a good time reading a page-turning yarn.

Who is your favourite character in this book, and why?
I think Kate, the female detective — or in this case, Freudian dick — is my favourite. The opening line of Seduction is Kate saying, “It’s really embarrassing to admit, but I forget why I killed my husband.” Kate has been in jail for a decade and read Freud while in her cell in order to try to understand why she killed her husband. She, like me, is a philosopher of science and has learned something about Freud. I, however, have not killed my husband (yet!). She is then hired by a psychological association to find out who is threatening the current Freudian archivist. I identify with Kate in her overestimation of rational behaviour and her underestimation of emotional understanding.

In fiction, every character is in some way an extension of the author, or the author would have no understanding of what makes the character tick. There is a section of me in each character, but the book is written in the first person. In order to do that, I had to get into Kate’s skin. She travelled with me like a Siamese twin until the book was finished.

Are there any tips you would give a book club to better navigate their discussion of your book?
All of the theories presented in the book have validity. There is no right or wrong one. I tried not to present suspects but instead people who had reasons for their beliefs — all of which are justifiable.

The other thing I would say is try not to commit the sin of presentism. Darwin and Freud were writing in the Victorian era when no one believed in the unconscious or evolution. Try to place yourself in the era before you judge their actions.

In terms of approaching the book you might want to look at the parallels between the lives Kate, the detective, is investigating and the life she herself has led.

Do you have a favourite story to tell about being interviewed about your book?
I haven’t been interviewed about the book yet, as it is just coming out. But when I was in London doing research for it, I asked the concierge in my hotel for directions to Freud’s home. He said he would look it up and call me. When he rang up he said, “I have some distressing news. Mr. Freud, the gentleman you are going to visit, seems to have passed away.” When I told the cab driver this tale, while he was driving me to Freud’s home, he said in a thick Cockney accent, “Ya see mate? That’s what happens when you do away with the O levels.”

What question are you never asked in interviews but wish you were?
I’m really interested in the creative process. What makes fiction work? How much of it is unconscious symbol, in order to make it universally interesting? In interviews about my memoir, I was concerned with the difference between truth, unconscious reality and memory. People would often ask, “Is this true?” I would have liked to explore the relationship between memory and reality or truth. Isn’t memory a compilation of unconscious symbols? Is that truth? This is of course my preoccupation as a writer, and it is no wonder no reader has asked me about it.

Has a review or profile ever changed your perspective on your work?
I remember when my first review came out for my first book, the memoir Too Close to the Falls. A friend called me and said, “You are reviewed in Toronto Life magazine and it says your book is ‘hilarious.’” I was horrified. I thought the reviewer meant that it was laughable, as in “laughed at not with,” a phrase that haunts me from Catholic school. When I dashed to the store and read the review in Mac’s Milk, the proprietor read it with me and said, “You must be a funny writer.” That was the first time I ever thought of my book as humorous. I learned the book was humorous and that I was a humorous writer from the review.

I was also shocked when the reviews referred to my childhood as unusual. I thought I had a totally normal childhood. However, I discovered that working full-time at four and having a mother that never made a meal was considered unusual. It seemed normal to me because I lived and enjoyed it. If you are happy, your parents never say an unkind word to you or to each other, you aren’t poor and there are no wars, you have no idea that your childhood is strange.

Which authors have been most influential to your own writing?
I think we are most influenced when we are young. I know I was. As a teenager I read George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss and felt like Maggie and I were peas in a pod. Eliot’s Middlemarch was right up my alley, with Dorothea initially believing intellect was above social justice. The book is about her learning to combine the two.

The Bronte sisters really moved me, and in a way Jackie, the detective and quasi-love-interest of Seduction, who has spent most of his life in jail and then come out and bettered himself, is a modern-day Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights). Kate, the heroine of Seduction, is a Catherine-like figure. Like Heathcliff and Catherine, Jackie and Kate can’t be together, nor can they part.

I have read all of Dickens and still see characters on the street that I think resemble some of his finest creations. When I was young, my mother read me Dickens, and then each night, since I was an only child, I would “talk” to the characters as though they were playmates. As a teenager, Sidney Carton (A Tale of Two Cities) was my fist crush. I have always been a lover of character development and I can only thank Dickens for that.

If you weren’t writing, what would you want to be doing for a living? What are some of your other passions in life?
Psychology is still a passion of mine, and although I don’t want to practice again, I still want to write in the area. I would also like academia. I’d love to write books and articles on various topics in the philosophy of science. I also have a flair for business and could see myself doing that, as I was also a business consultant when I was a psychologist.

I love competitive sports. I am on a masters rowing squad and we have competed for 11 years on a racing team. We even went to the Worlds a few years ago. I also windsurf whenever I can and have on rare occasion raced. I enjoy hiking and the outdoor world.

If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?
The Interpretation of Dreams — but Freud beat me to it.


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

Praise

“Very clever . . . definitely a cut above other thrillers.”
NOW (Toronto)

"There are enough twists, turns and identity shifts to keep you guessing... Like a dream, it makes you question what's real and imagined."
Time

"Seduction is smart and entertaining — brainy fun for a cold winter's night."
The Globe and Mail

"Book-review clichés come to mind: "I couldn't put it down," "compulsively readable," etc. Seduction is a fast-paced modern novel filled with snappy dialogue, exotic settings and juicy intellectual plums, somewhat in the manner of The Da Vinci Code."
Montreal Gazette

"A stylish suspenseful romp through psychoanalytical academia."
The Bay Street Bull

Seduction is certainly a romp, and the author’s pleasure in writing it comes across, a rare enough literary event. Her devotion to the subject matter is apparent.”
National Post

“A fast-paced intellectual thriller . . . Dr Gildner’s insights about the desires that motivate us will keep you hooked.”
Chatelaine

Seduction introduces crime fiction to literary mystery. . . . An addictive thriller that combines a crash course on Freudian theory with an old-fashioned detective story . . . Seduction is written with the kind of wit and intelligence reminiscent of another page-turner, The Da Vinci Code.
–The Hour (Montreal)

“A psychologically deep novel that combines two ex-cons, Anna Freud, and ambitious archivist and a zany catalogue of characters.”
Elle (Canada)

“A snappy pageturner of a debut.”
Ottawa Citizen

Praise for Too Close to the Falls:
“Memorably and skillfully told. . . Anyone who ever was, or has, a child considered different
in some way will enjoy this book.”
The Globe and Mail

“Richly detailed and absorbing, Too Close to the Falls has only one real fault. It ends too soon.”
Toronto Life

“A fascinating childhood is no guarantee of a fascinating memoir. It still takes a gifted writer to translate the past into a work of art, and Gildiner is a gifted writer.”
Toronto Star
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. Discuss Kate’s role as the narrator of this story. What effect does her perspective have on your reading? How much do you trust her to be true to the facts?

2. Was Kate correct to suspect Dr. Gardonne’s motives right from the start? Or does “paranoia” play a part here? And if so, is there a sense that paranoia helped her solve the case? Consider also the role of Bozo, who was labelled a “paranoid” by Konzak.

3. In what ways is Seduction a conventional detective story? What elements distinguish it from the genre?

4. Kate and Jackie travel far and wide — Vienna, Toronto, London, New York, the Isle of Wight — during their search. Discuss how Gildiner brings these places to life for readers, through Kate’s eyes and her memories.

5. In her author’s note at the start of the novel, Gildiner states that she “freely altered” historical information about the lives of Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud and Charles Darwin for the sake of her fictional storyline. Discuss the responsibility, if any, novelists have to the facts of history.

6. Discuss Kate’s attitude towards the murder of her husband. Is she dispassionate? How may her years behind bars have affected her perceptions? What do you think really happened that day?

7. In the first chapter, Kate tells us of Freud’s belief that everyone is born with two drives, sex and aggression, and that what interested him was what happened when these drives are curtailed — for instance, when we use defences like repression, denial, intellectualization and sublimation. How does this theory play out in the events and characters of Seduction?

8. Both Kate and Jackie have come up with ways to deal with their feelings of guilt and shame — Kate analyzes her emotional reactions and throws herself into her studies; Jackie lives in the moment and refuses to feel shame for the past. How healthy do you think they are, emotionally and psychologically? Consider both characters in terms of how prison has affected or shaped them.

9. Do you think that the truths uncovered about Freud and Darwin would have struck the blow to psychoanalysis that Gardonne and the rest of the industry feared?

10. Why does Kate feel such a bond with Anna Freud? In what ways are they similar, or different? Think particularly of their childhoods and their relationships.

11. Discuss the quote from Freud that opens this novel. Do you think "every normal person" has some psychotic element to his or her psyche? What about the characters in this book?

12. How do the letters, diary excerpts, notes, papers and other documents included in the text add depth to Seduction? Did you ever find yourself forgetting that you were reading fiction?

13. In what ways is Kate affected by her visits to the house that Bozo, Shawna, The Wizard and Edgar live in? What do these characters and their lifestyle represent in the novel? And what do you make of The Wizard’s disappearance?

14. In chapter 4, Kate and Jackie discuss Freud’s seduction theory and how it morphed into the Oedipus complex, as they try to get to the root of Konzak’s plans. Discuss these theories and their role in this novel, both in past events and in the current story. For instance, what kind of relationships do Kate, Jackie, Dr. Gardonne and Anna Freud have with their parents?

15. Discuss Seduction and its characters (such as Jackie, Kate, Dr. Von Enchanhauer, The Wizard) in terms of the Darwinian statement "Only the fittest survive."

16. What do you think of the relationship between Kate and Jackie? What does the future hold for them? Is romance likely?


  • Seduction by Catherine Gildiner
  • November 29, 2005
  • Fiction
  • Vintage Canada
  • $21.99
  • 9780676976540

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